Exploring the Hidden Europe in 2004 and 2008-2011

In 2004, I visited all 25 countries in Eastern Europe. You'll find the blog entries from that trip here. In 2008-2011, I returned to see what had changed since that time. With these two visits, five years apart, I accumulated enough material for my 750-page book, The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us.

This blog now has many excerpts from The Hidden Europe. But who the hell reads anymore? Just look at the best photos from Eastern Europe!

This map reflects how I define Eastern Europe. Eastern Europeans love to deny that they're in Eastern Europe. I tackle how and why I define Eastern Europe the way I do in the Introduction of The Hidden Europe.

Eastern Europe map from Francis Tapon's book, 'The Hidden Europe'


When people travel to Europe, they tend to arrange their trip to hit its most iconic cities, such as Rome, Barcelona, Paris, and London. However, Europe is vast, and your itinerary shouldn't stop there. Oft-overlooked Eastern Europe is just as rich culturally, has the added advantage of being less touristy, and is more friendly on your wallet. Travel to these unique destinations for a one-of-a-kind experience that is perfect for single holidays. 

Here’s a selection of five of the best places you won’t want to miss.   


1. Budapest 

Split by the Danube River, two cities – Buda and Pest – come together to forge one of the largest cities in Eastern Europe. It’s also considered one of the prettiest, famed for its Art Nouveau, Baroque, and Neoclassical architecture. 

Be sure to visit the Castle District that is home to the city’s Old Town, a treasure trove of ancient sights and museums. Marvel at the Royal Palace before learning more about Hungary’s capital at The Budapest History Museum. 

After exploring the many sights, take the time to enjoy one of the most enticing attractions in the city; geothermal springs are a great way to unwind and contemplate your adventures after months of traveling. Szechenyi Spa Baths nestled in the grounds of an opulent palace are one of the biggest and best in the city.   

Europe is the safest continent you can travel in, which explains why it is also the most popular tourist destination in the world. However, even in tourism paradise things can go wrong. Here's what to consider.

Cycling safety

In the opening of The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us, I praise Finland for its biker-friendly environment (you can download the chapter for free and read it for yourself).

However, while I was right that Finland is wonderful for biker safety, it's the Central/Eastern European countries that are the best overall. 

Cycling safety in Europe

Biking across Europe is fun. I've even recommended biking across El Camino de Santiago in Spain. However, you still might want get insurance for your bike and health insurance too. And buy a really good lock because bike theft is rife.

Guest Post by Romeo Demes:

Galesnjak - Island of LoveCroatia has firmly established itself as one of Europe’s premium tourist destinations. Its major attractions like Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes and Zadar have gained global tourist acclaim.

As a result, most visitors to Croatia travel to these attractions. However, these attractions are just the tip of the iceberg. Croatia has numerous jewels and hidden gems, many of which have been delighting curious adventurers for years.

If you are one of those who are willing to look beyond the standard travel brochures, then these hidden gems are the perfect destination for you. Some of the hidden gems are the following:

Galesnjak – The Island of Love

Popularly referred to as the “Lover’s Island”, Galesnjak is quietly emerging as one of Croatia’s top romantic destinations. This is because it is the most heart-shaped island in the world. This fact was first brought to the attention of the world by Google Earth images in 2009.

The island has since become popular stopover for couples on a romantic holiday. Therefore, if you are travelling with your better half, you may want to drop by there.

The island itself is small, uninhabited and mostly covered with trees and shrubs. It is surrounded by pristine waters of the Pasman channel, and has a few pebble beaches. The majority of the island is wild and untamed. You can have a picnic, enjoy a quiet romantic time or even camp through the night. Most people who visit the island set base at Pasman Island or in the historic town of Zadar.

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